Oct 4, 2010

How To Negotiate With The Syrians

  1. The Syrians have informed the U.S. that they are ready to enter peace negotiations with Israel, but only if we agree in advance that the Golan belongs to them, because it is holy Syrian soil.
  2. This is an opportunity for Israel to announce that we are ready to enter peace negotiations with Syria, but only if they agree in advance that the Golan belongs to us, because it is holy Israeli-Jewish soil.
  3. Then we can enter negotiations (or not) on an equal basis.
  4. If Israel is foolish enough to start by conceding that any part of the Golan belongs to the Syrians, then no negotiations can ever succeed.
  5. The sages of the Babylonian Talmud understood this basic rule of negotiations thousands of years ago. The first page of Tractate “Baba Metziya” begins:
                  Two people are holding a garment. Each one says, I found it. Each one       says it’s all mine. Each one swears, I have possession of not less than one half.         The decision: To divide it equally between them.
                  If one says it’s all mine and the other (a nice guy) says half is mine and       half is his. Decision: to give three quarters to the one who says it’s all mine and             one quarter to the one who says half and half.
                  How does the Talmud explain this strange result? Since each of them          agrees that one half belongs to one of them, the argument is only about the other      half, so we divide that between them equally.
  1. Jabotinsky recognized this extremely important lesson in negotiations. You must claim it all if you want to get at least half. If you are a nice guy and say let’s divide it equally, you end up with only a quarter while the bad guy gets three quarters.
                       It is amazing that the Israeli Prime Minister and government have still not internalized this basic rule of negotiations. If the Arabs say it’s all theirs and the Israeli’s say half and half, then we have lost before we start.
      In order to give any negotiations a chance (if indeed they have one at all), when the Arabs say “It’s all ours”, we must say, “It’s all ours”. From that point negotiations can start.
  1. The basis of all our claims is our G-d given right, as set forth in Rashi on the first page of the Bible. Genesis (Bereshith) 1:1
"In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth".
Rabbi Yitzhak said, one of the Rabbis quoted by Rashi said, “It was not necessary to commence the Torah before the first commandment, which is the book of Exodus. Why then did the Torah begin with Genesis? To show that everything belongs to G-d the creator". If the nations of the world will say to Israel, "You are robbers who conquered the lands of seven nations”, Israel can answer them, "All of the world belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to those He wanted. By His will He gave it to them and by His will he took it from them and gave it to us".

That right has been recognized over the years, e.g., the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations Mandate, the U.N General Assembly decision of 1947. However, even if none of those documents had ever existed, it would not reduce our rights by one whit. Thus, to base any claims on the authority of those documents is, I think, doomed to failure.
Rights which human groups recognize at various times, they can also unrecognize, which is what is happening now.

In conclusion, I believe that our negotiating position must be based on the statement and belief that it is all ours. Only in this way can we enter into any negotiations with the Arabs on an equal footing.
If we start out conceding half to them, we are putting ourselves into a vise and ensuring that no negotiations can ever succeed.

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